Multilingual education and language-in-education in Southeast Asia

The Multilingual Education Working Group and Recent Language-in-Education Policy Developments in Southeast Asia – Kirk R.Person at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Kirk is a Thailand-based linguist focused on minority language issues. He is associated with SIL International and Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University, Thailand

Kirk is a Thailand-based linguist focused on minority language issues. He is associated with SIL International and Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University,
Thailand

What is Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE)? Speaker Kirk R. Person associated with SIL International and Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University, Thailand, explains that it is an education system where learners’ mother tongue is used in the classroom as a bridge in learning L1 and L2.

Person talks about the sandwich method of teaching and cites an example from Thai classroom:

  • Layer 1: A teacher briefs the learners about the aims of the lesson and explains key concepts in mother tongue
  • Layer 2: The lesson progresses in Thai
  • Layer 3: The teacher engages the students in discussion in mother tongue.

He also spoke about how communities can frame curriculums for their children and that a gradual shift from L1 to L2 can be achieved by a progressive syllabus where L2 is taught in a similar way to L1. He talked about exposing learners to L2 first by making them listen, following by speaking and finally by reading and writing. This is contrary to the more traditional style where children are taught the alphabet before they are able to understand or use the oral language.

Person says that research has shown not only that learners in MLE schools achieve more than in mono-lingual schools, but also that this could be a way towards reaching an inclusive environment in classrooms and bringing about social harmony. Communities can become more integrated and empowered within the wider civil society. Despite globalisation and the onslaught of English, several East Asian countries such as Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand have recently developed language in education policies which are supportive of the right of children to receive early education in their mother tongue.

Watch his session at the 11th Language & Development Conference here:

Also watch his interview

Post by: Ruchi Jain
The writer is the Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

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